Author: Erin Abler
• Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

You know it when you see it.  It’s disorganized, unsatisfying, and only purports to be related to the topic you came to explore.  It’s superficial content, and while it can be found in every sector – from pharma and healthcare to news and entertainment – you must avoid it if you want your site to be important to your readers.

Here are 5 tips for keeping bad content at bay:

1. Relevance is relative. Anyone involved in user experience will tell you this.  Know your audience, treat it well, and in return, they will return to you as a source of good information.  Strike the right tone for each of the audiences you anticipate reaching, and use that tone consistently so readers can tell when they reach the right piece of content.  Respect readers’ level of understanding, and meet them there.  Finally, don’t just tack a brand message onto your content; write with your communication goals in mind.  When messaging has no apparent connection to the content around it, or a statement has to be traced four links back to the context that makes it sensible, there’s a relevance problem.

2. Don’t spread your resources too thinly. You need to dedicate time, money, and expertise to content creation and maintenance.  Sounds simple, but for every planning-meeting nod to the idea of good content, there’s a squirming look around the room when the topic of dedicated staff time follows.  If you’re concerned about how much original content will cost, generate a system of time tracking for discrete tasks associated with writing:  the reading and thinking that have to go into the writing, the research that supports the writing, and then the actual time spent composing.  This gives your author a scalable amount of time to create solid, meaningful content.

3. Write well, or get someone else to. Your content should convey the depth of knowledge you have at your fingertips: what you have to offer, what you know from experience, and what you’ve learned from doing business lately.  These are the things your audience is interested in.  Also – and this is critical – sharing “deep” content doesn’t always mean publishing lengthy copy.  In fact, the person who understands something extraordinarily well is often the person who’ll be able to explain that thing in the simplest way, for whatever level of detail the situation calls for.  In the health care industry, tap writers who are health specialists, if they’re available; alternatively, consider the strategic use of third-party content provided by vendors.

4. Make context happen. Placement of related links, tools, and text alongside a piece of content demonstrate the connectedness of the services you offer and the value to the reader.  Of course, relationships between various types and pieces of content aren’t always readily apparent.  To optimize use of your content management system and your content simultaneously, you may benefit from implementing a taxonomy.  Whatever you do, put your mark on it: Readers will return to a site that gives them good information in an insightful way.  Don’t give them reasons to look elsewhere for the content you’ve already got on hand.

5. Once you’ve defined the context, let your readers redefine it elsewhere. Give people the chance to consume, collect, distribute, and repeat your content in ways that fit with their own content consumption.  Their community-building will involve yours by extension, and every link that points back to your site is a chance to engage a new visitor within the fuller context you’ve created.  Communities that center on health and wellness are especially well-rewarded by information sharing, since the knowledge of the group can go to improve the group’s well-being.

If it’s all too easy to poke holes in your existing content, you probably have at least some of the problems listed above.  Overwhelmed?  Begin by understanding what your readers expect from you.  Once you have a handle on their needs, the content strategy puzzle will start to come together.

If you’ve already walked over these coals, hit us back with your findings – what else can we do to establish quality, credibility, and long-lasting relationships with our online audiences?

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